The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, September 12, 2003  

“They Say It’s My Birthday!”

Figures an astrological nut like my good friend Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla would let the cat out of the bag.

Yes, tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, is my birthday.

I’m turning 40.


Deal with that.

And on this special day, do you know what I’m thinking about doing?


Registering, as in heading to my favorite stores and setting up lists of wonderful gifts my family and friends might think to send me, for no better reason than that I simply exist.

Sure, I didn’t get married. I’m pretty sure I never will. But I know many people who have been married, people to whom I have given amazing, tasteful, and sometimes perfectly chosen, gifts.

Some of these people, by the way, are now divorced. You won’t be surprised to learn, though, that they kept the gifts.

Look, I’ve been handing out wedding gifts and, thanks to the new politically correct and oh-so-not-sexist regime that demands men, along with women, be invited to that unbearable tradition known as a “shower,” shower gifts up and down the friggin’ East Coast for the last 20 years.

And what do I have to show for it? Precious little. A few -- and I mean that -- thank-you notes stowed away in what I call my “time capsules,” but nothing more.

And so I will register. (I’m pleased to report that my unmarried cousin J.S. is with me on this.)

(Oh, and here’s a tip for couples to be, from no less an authority than Judith Martin, a/k/a “Miss Manners”: No, dear bride and groom, you do not have “a year” to send your thank-you notes. Who on earth told you that lie? The guests at your wedding, from none of whom, by the way, you have any right whatsoever to expect a gift at all, have up to one year to send you a gift, if, and only if, they choose to do so. However, your thank-you note, upon receipt of each and every gift, must be posted -- i.e., your gratitude written on paper and sent to the giver through the U.S. mail -- within no more than seven days. Look, someone just spent money on you. It wouldn’t and won’t kill you to stay up an hour later each night to write a little form-letter kind of thank-you note. Okay?)

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I really love visiting a sibling or friend and eating a nice meal prepared in the couple’s fully stocked kitchen, served on china and crystal that I myself bought and paid for, at least in part, while my everyday experience is to eat from pedestrian plates and glasses that I purchased at Strawbridge’s of all places, with funds obtained through the grand family tradition known as “The 40th Birthday Gift From Your Siblings That You’re Supposed to Spend on Something You Wouldn’t Otherwise Buy for Yourself.”

Well, it didn’t work out that way. But that, my friends, is the story of my life.

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